The worst question you can ask in a job interview

At some point during the job interview, the interviewer is going to ask you “Do you have any questions for me?” And, you must be prepared for it.

You can’t say no. Saying you don’t have any questions implies a lack of enthusiasm for the position, and the hiring manager wants you to be enthusiastic. You have to ask questions, and you should absolutely prepare them beforehand. Don’t go in blind, not knowing what you’re going to ask.

Also, you can’t just ask any old questions. There are some you should never ask under any circumstances, while others are pretty much guaranteed home runs.

New research from UK job board CV-Library has  list of the questions that people believe have jeopardized their chances of landing the job, along with those they believe were well received.

CV-Library surveyed 1,200 workers on interview preparation techniques and found that 92.3% try to ask a question in every job interview (smart), while more than three quarters (79.3%) prepare questions in advance (also smart). When asked which questions they think probably jeopardized their chances of landing a position in the past, survey subjects said the following:

  1. What does your company do? (53%)
  2. How often do you give your employees a raise? (52.9%)
  3. Will I have to work long hours? (50.3%)
  4. How much will I get paid? (49.8%)
  5. Do you offer sick pay? (45.4%)

Other responses included asking how much vacation time they get (25.5%) and who the company’s market competitors are (14.5%).

While survey subjects were interviewees rather than interviewers, these responses are pretty spot on. Never ask what the company does. That shows you did absolutely zero research and couldn’t care less about the job. Questions about money and time off are also terrible. Yes, you want to know all these things, and it’s natural to want to ask about them, but you have to play this game where you pretend that money means nothing to you, and that all you care about is how can bring value to the company at which you’re applying. You find out about all the money and benefits when the offer is made. Not before.

And do write the questions down beforehand. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to a script and can’t ask questions that come to mind during the interview. But it’s better than going in with nothing.

Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library is quoted by the Chichester Observer as saying, “Unfortunately, questions around money and working hours can often touch a nerve with potential employers, as it could suggest that you’re not actually interested in the role itself and the work you’ll be doing. That’s not to say you can’t ask about the package the company is offering, it’s just important that you phrase it in the right way.”

The survey also asked respondents which questions they’ve asked in past interviews that they felt were well received and that boosted their chances of getting the job. The responses included:

  1. Is there room for development in this position? (74.2%)
  2. How would you describe the general culture of the company and the workplace? (51.3%)
  3. What are the team like that I will be working with? (36.8%)
  4. When can I start? (24.2%)
  5. How do you measure success? (23.3%)

Questions about culture are good ones. It shows that you’re trying to envision yourself in the company, and employers these days are all about “fit.” Questions about growth opportunities are also good. They suggest you’re goal oriented and aiming to thrive in the role.

More questions you might ask include but are not limited to:

What are the performance expectations for this role?” — This is another way of asking about success measurements.

“If I am hired, what are the three most important things you want me to accomplish in the first six to twelve months on the job?”  — This question shows you’re thinking ahead. It also helps you measure whether the expectations are realistic, and if you can do the job.

“What do you enjoy about working here?” — If there isn’t a convincing response, that might be a red flag!

“What challenges might I encounter in this position?” — Look! You’re already problem solving!

“What market or audience would you like to reach but you aren’t?” — An excellent question for marketing, public facing, and sales roles. Every company has someone they want to reach but can’t. If you can solve this problem, you’re golden.

“Is there anything we haven’t discussed or something that I can do to help you with your decision?” — This shows enthusiasm for the role, and gives the hiring manager a chance to fill in blanks.

“What are the next steps?” — Always ask about next steps. You want to know how long you’ll be waiting around, how many interviews you might have to go through. When an offer might come. You might not get all the information, but you can try.

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